Notre Dame benefited in more ways than one in the second overtime of its 29-26 triple-overtime victory over Pittsburgh (4-5) on Saturday.
Not only did Panthers kicker Kevin Harper miss a 33-yard field goal, which would have won the game, the officials missed the Irish having two players on the field with the same number.
Cornerback Bennett Jackson and receiver Chris Brown, who both wear No. 2, were on the field at the same time to defend the kick. A penalty should have been called that would have given Pitt a fresh set of downs and the chance to score a touchdown or get in closer for a shorter field goal attempt.
“No exception to (the rule). It was a coaching mistake,” coach Brian Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. “We had put our 'desperado' team on there, and Chris Brown is part of 'desperado.' We've got to do a better job, an oversight that can't happen.”
Kelly said he realized the mistake after the play and that steps will be taken to ensure the same mistake doesn’t happen again.
“We have an easy way for us to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” Kelly said. “They won’t be on the field (at the same time) again. It’s on me now, so I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
While the missed field goal, and now the missed call, opened the floor for debating whether the No. 4 Irish (9-0) were lucky to remain perfect, Kelly said what are perceived as breaks can also come down to a team making its own luck.
“I’ve never had a team that won because it was lucky, but I’ve had many teams that were fortunate because they were good football teams and they found a way to win,” Kelly said. “I don’t think I’ve had a lucky football team. I think I’ve had a good team that’s gotten some breaks.”
Kelly also provided an update on backup offensive lineman Tate Nichols, who wasn’t in uniform for the win over Pitt.
“We’re going to get an MRI on his knee, we may have (taken a step back),” Kelly said. “We are not certain until we get more results. … We are still in the process of getting more information, but he did suffer an injury. We won’t have any definitive information for a couple of more days.”